55 min

Boundaries, Burnout and the 'Goopification' of Self-Care The Ezra Klein Show

    • Society & Culture

Love it or hate it, self-care has transformed from a radical feminist concept into a multibillion-dollar industry. But the wellness boom doesn’t seem to be making a dent in Americans’ stress levels. In 2021, 34 percent of women reported feeling burned out at work, along with 26 percent of men.

Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a psychiatrist, has observed how wellness culture fails her patients, who she says are often burned out because of systemic failures, from the stresses that come with financial precariousness to the lack of paid family leave. In her book “Real Self-Care: A Transformative Program for Redefining Wellness (Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included),” she encourages people to look beyond superficial fixes — the latest juice cleanses, yoga workshops, luxury bamboo sheets — to feel better. Instead, she argues that real self-care requires embracing internal work, which she outlines as four practices: setting boundaries, practicing self-compassion, aligning your values and exercising power. Lakshmin argues that when you practice real self-care, you not only take care of yourself, but you can also plant the seeds for change in your community.

In this conversation, the guest host, Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Lakshmin discuss how the pandemic opened up a larger conversation about parental burnout; how countries with more robust social safety nets frame care as a right, not a benefit; why it’s fair to understand burnout as a type of societal “betrayal”; how to practice boundary-setting and why it can feel uncomfortable to do so; the convenient allure of “faux self-care”; and more.

This episode was hosted by Tressie McMillan Cottom, a columnist for Times Opinion, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the author of “Thick: And Other Essays.” Cottom also writes a newsletter for Times Opinion that offers a sociologist’s perspective on culture, politics and the economics of our everyday lives.

Mentioned:

More information about Ezra’s Jefferson Memorial Lecture

“We Don’t Need Self-Care; We Need Boundaries” by Pooja Lakshmin

“How Society Has Turned Its Back on Mothers” by Pooja Lakshmin

“Our Obsession With Wellness Is Hurting Teens — and Adults” by The Ezra Klein Show with Lisa Damour

“A Legendary World Builder on Multiverses, Revolution and the ‘Souls’ of Cities” by The Ezra Klein Show with N.K. Jemisin

Book Recommendations:

Living Resistance by Kaitlin B. Curtice

The Emotional Lives of Teenagers by Lisa Damour

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Kristin Lin. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. The senior engineer is Jeff Geld. The senior editor is Annie-Rose Strasser. The show’s production team includes Emefa Agawu and Rollin Hu. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Sonia Herrero.

Love it or hate it, self-care has transformed from a radical feminist concept into a multibillion-dollar industry. But the wellness boom doesn’t seem to be making a dent in Americans’ stress levels. In 2021, 34 percent of women reported feeling burned out at work, along with 26 percent of men.

Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, a psychiatrist, has observed how wellness culture fails her patients, who she says are often burned out because of systemic failures, from the stresses that come with financial precariousness to the lack of paid family leave. In her book “Real Self-Care: A Transformative Program for Redefining Wellness (Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included),” she encourages people to look beyond superficial fixes — the latest juice cleanses, yoga workshops, luxury bamboo sheets — to feel better. Instead, she argues that real self-care requires embracing internal work, which she outlines as four practices: setting boundaries, practicing self-compassion, aligning your values and exercising power. Lakshmin argues that when you practice real self-care, you not only take care of yourself, but you can also plant the seeds for change in your community.

In this conversation, the guest host, Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Lakshmin discuss how the pandemic opened up a larger conversation about parental burnout; how countries with more robust social safety nets frame care as a right, not a benefit; why it’s fair to understand burnout as a type of societal “betrayal”; how to practice boundary-setting and why it can feel uncomfortable to do so; the convenient allure of “faux self-care”; and more.

This episode was hosted by Tressie McMillan Cottom, a columnist for Times Opinion, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the author of “Thick: And Other Essays.” Cottom also writes a newsletter for Times Opinion that offers a sociologist’s perspective on culture, politics and the economics of our everyday lives.

Mentioned:

More information about Ezra’s Jefferson Memorial Lecture

“We Don’t Need Self-Care; We Need Boundaries” by Pooja Lakshmin

“How Society Has Turned Its Back on Mothers” by Pooja Lakshmin

“Our Obsession With Wellness Is Hurting Teens — and Adults” by The Ezra Klein Show with Lisa Damour

“A Legendary World Builder on Multiverses, Revolution and the ‘Souls’ of Cities” by The Ezra Klein Show with N.K. Jemisin

Book Recommendations:

Living Resistance by Kaitlin B. Curtice

The Emotional Lives of Teenagers by Lisa Damour

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at ezrakleinshow@nytimes.com.

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.

This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Kristin Lin. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris. The senior engineer is Jeff Geld. The senior editor is Annie-Rose Strasser. The show’s production team includes Emefa Agawu and Rollin Hu. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Sonia Herrero.

55 min

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